JEDDAH: Have you always wanted to know what the songs of Abdulmajeed Abdullah, Dalida, Amr Diyab, Fairuz or other Arab artists would sound like if they were in a video game?
The answer? Watch the creations of Saudi digital artist and music producer Emarati Moath Bin Hafez, who reimagines popular Arabic songs in video game settings.
For the 50th UAE National Day, Hafez came up with the idea of creating an 8-bit chiptune version of the UAE national anthem, which was his pilot project.
“Since Instagram is primarily a visual platform, I made a simple animation of the United Arab Emirates flag being hoisted in the Super Mario universe,” he told Arab News.
“To my surprise, the video game got a lot of attention and became my most watched video within days,” he said.
Following his success, he decided to focus on making chiptune remixes of Arabic pop music as there was clearly an “appetite” for this type of content.
“With modern software, you can emulate the sound of those older chips, but without having to learn anything about programming, so you just focus on the creative side like instrumentation, arrangement and such,” did he declare.
“I’m a kid of the 80s, so I played a lot on my Sakhr (MSX) and NES. For me, the music was always the most memorable part of those old games.
He said the sound chips in those old consoles were very primitive, so the composers worked around the limits by being really creative with the composition and the techniques they used.
“The idea of working with limited tools to fuel your creativity resonates a lot with me,” he said.
In terms of music, Hafez has said electronic bands Daft Punk and Justice are his biggest inspirations.
Video games have changed so much over time, but his favorite is “Donkey Kong Country 2” from the classic generation and the “Fallout series” from the modern generation.
“I juxtaposed the singers with mostly fighting game backgrounds like Street Fighter II and the King of Fighters series. They’re very dynamic and often have animated characters staring at them,” he said.
“I try to match the background with the way the music sounds and with the way the singer appears to me,” he said.
He explained that for one of his works for the 2000s game show “Man Sayarbah Al-Malyoon” (Who Will Win the Million), he used the famous Las Vegas scene from Street Fighter II.
“It’s really crazy and above the level with the dancers and the spectators betting because I feel like it matches the greatness of this show in the Arab world,” he said.
Highlighting his work on Lebanese singer Fairuz, he chiptuned her song “Habaytak Bisayf” (I loved you in the summer), which is about loneliness and longing.
“It made sense to scroll Fairuz through empty landscapes through different seasons to match the lyrics and emphasize loneliness and isolation,” he said.